12505 Hymeadow Drive, Suite 2E

512 338-8120

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea and Snoring Facts

Facts about Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring is the loud, harsh noise that people make when they inhale during sleep. The sound is caused by the vibrations of the loose tissue in the back of their throat. How loud can this sound be? The loudest recorded snoring was 87 decibels. A lawnmower is 95 decibels and a jackhammer is 85 decibels. It is easy to see why some couples sleep in different bedrooms. You are not alone in the fight to resolve you snoring issue. Approximately 40% of adults over the age of 40 are snorers. In real numbers that means over 45 million Americans are chronic snorers and as the population ages it will only get worse.

Think of the dynamics of snoring. When you fall asleep your tongue, muscles and loose tissues surrounding your airway relax. These relaxed tissues begin to cover the airway and make the opening smaller. Air passing through the smaller airway increases in speed causing the loose tissues to rattle against the throat. This is the snoring sound. The narrower the airway, the faster the air moves, and the louder the snoring.

If the airway completely closes off, we now have the condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. You are now not only socially unacceptable, but this lack of oxygen actually endangers your health. Left untreated, the daytime fatigue factor can make you more accident-prone. When your tongue completely covers your airway, due to the lack of inherent muscle tone, the source of oxygen to your lungs is closed off. Body oxygen levels drop until your brain kicks in and you gasp, throwing your tongue off the airway opening and allowing you to gasp for a breath of air. The danger is twofold. First, since you cannot get a restful night of sleep due to all the interruptions, you are constantly tired and more susceptible to accidents. Secondly, the lower body oxygen levels you experience while asleep have serious consequences on your cardiovascular system. You are now a prime target for a heart attack or stroke. The following are the most common symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea:

  1. Loud Snoring
  2. Periodic Stoppages in Breathing
  3. Irritability
  4. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  5. Personality change
  6. Poor Memory
  7. Difficulty concentrating
  8. Excessive nighttime urination

Certain factors can play an important role in determining if you are going to become a serious snorer or develop sleep apnea.

  1. Excessive weight: Obesity is a major predisposing factor in obstructive sleep apnea. The thicker the neck the more weight and pressure on the tissues surrounding the airway.
  2. Small lower jaw: A small lower jaw has less room for the tongue and soft tissues. The smaller space decreases the size of the airway opening and increases your chance for snoring and apnea.
  3. Sleeping on your back: This position allows gravity to pull your tongue and lower jaw down and backwards. This creates a smaller airway opening and increases your chance for snoring and apnea. Approximately 60% of the population will have increased snoring and more apnea when they sleep on their backs.
  4. Alcohol and certain medications: Antihistamines, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, and alcohol will make your snoring and sleep apnea worse. These drugs allow for greater muscle relaxation in the soft tissues and muscles in the throat. This can lead to the narrowing of the airway once again.
  5. Smoking: Smoking causes irritation of the tissues in the back of the throat. This irritation can cause mucous formation which causes congestion in the airway passages and throat.
  6. Genetics: Some of the most unlikely individuals develop apnea.
  7. Not being breast fed: Infants that are breast fed have a harder time getting milk from a breast than from a bottle. Breast feeding causes the infant’s tongue to widen over the hard palate and press the nipple hard to express the breast milk. This action causes the soft bones at the top of the mouth, the hard palate, to widen due to the constant pressure of the tongue. A wider hard palate means a wider opening for the airway in the posterior airway space. Bottle fed babies have a higher hard palate because the tongue is not required to press on the nipple with any force to express the milk. Therefore a higher hard palate means a narrower posterior airway space.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious health problem. Because it can effect so many facets of our lives, our loved ones lives and even strangers lives, it should always be taken seriously and treated by qualified doctors.